Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil called the Israeli offensive a "disaster" during a visit to Gaza on Friday. Reports of violence continued despite an Israeli pledge to suspend strikes if militants also halted attacks during Kandil’s visit.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil arrived in Gaza for a brief visit to express “solidarity” with the Hamas leadership of the Palestinian territory on Friday amid an escalating crisis.
“Egypt will spare no effort ... to stop the aggression and to achieve a truce," Kandil said during a visit to a Gaza hospital.
The Israeli assault on Gaza, in retaliation for rocket attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, has angered Egypt and stoked tensions across the Arab world.
Egypt President Mohammed Morsi on Friday called Israel’s attacks on Gaza “a blatant attack on humanity,” according to Egyptian news agency MENA.
“Egypt will not leave Gaza on its own,” he added.
And in a further sign that “Arab Spring” countries were putting their weight behind the Palestinian cause, Tunisia on Friday announced that Foreign Minster Rafik Abdessalem would visit Gaza on Saturday.
In a statement announcing the visit, the Tunisian presidency denounced Israeli “aggression”.
Israel denies attacks during Kandil visit
Israel said it would suspend its attacks during Kandil’s three-hour visit on the condition that Hamas also stopped its rocket attacks, although both sides reported that the hostilities continued.
Hamas said Israel launched air strikes that killed two people during Kandil's visit. The Israeli military denied those claims and said about 50 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza while Kandil was in the Palestinian territory. Israeli television broadcasts showed damage from one rocket that struck the southern city of Ashkelon.
"Hamas does not respect the Egyptian prime minister's visit to Gaza and violates the temporary ceasefire that Israel agreed to during the visit," Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote on Twitter.
Escalating regional tension
Israel’s assault on Gaza has raised tensions throughout the Middle East, while Russia condemned Israel’s “disproportionate” use of force against the more lightly armed Palestinians.
The UK, meanwhile, said Hamas bore “principal responsibility” for targeting Israeli towns, while former British prime minister Tony Blair, special envoy for the Middle East "quartet", said Hamas should stop rocket attacks on Israeli towns or the “retaliation will increase”.
The White House has also said there was “no justification” for Hamas’s rocket attacks and that the militant group bore primary responsibility for the current situation.
US deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Thursday called on Egypt, which was Israel’s most important mediator with Palestinian groups until former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in early 2011, to persuade militant groups in Gaza to rein in their fire.
"We ask Egypt to use its influence in the region to help de-escalate the situation," Toner said.
Date created : 2012-11-16